Taking the hot seat this month is David Rudeforth who is the UK Manager of IDT (UK).
He discusses how the company recently moved its product range into the broadcasting industry and how image quality is always paramount.
Hi David. Thanks so much for speaking to Broadcast Film & Video.
First of all, could you give me a quick overview of IDT and what the company does?
IDT started in 1997 with the launch of a high speed camera to meet a demanding scientific application: Particle Image Velicometry, or PIV. This involves the imaging of dust particles in an airflow, so having a low noise, very clean image is essential. This high quality image was soon discovered by other applications, and IDT soon became the leader in compact and rugged high speed cameras for many demanding applications, like car crash and airborne testing. The company became better known worldwide when it purchased Redlake (including Kodak’s former high speed camera division) in 2005. Today, IDT designs all it’s own sensors and is constantly innovating. We like to surprise our customers with how small we can make our cameras, with no compromise in performance or image quality.
The company recently moved its product range into the broadcasting side of the industry can you tell me more about this and why the firm chose to do this?
IDT has, for quite a while, been producing images which are of a very high quality. This has resulted in the cameras being used in the film and television environment for studio applications like food commercials and in movies like Hurt Locker. The broadcast market has always been a more demanding one as there is no opportunity to edit the footage after capturing. Our cameras have only very recently had all the features, interfaces and control options required in the more demanding OB environment, so the time is now right for introducing IDT to the world of broadcasting. We have been working with RaceTech, who are very experienced broadcasters, and they’ve been invaluable in helping us fine tune our cameras, to make them seamlessly fit into an OB infrastructure.
RaceTech, who provide all of the cameras for Sky Sports Racing, approached IDT to provide a good quality slow motion replay of the race finish. The company chose to use the HD Mini. How does this camera meet the demands of the OB environment?
Image quality is paramount, and the HD Mini has an excellent image. Being able to deliver that quality straight from the camera at a smooth 50Hz was the most important feature. However, high light sensitivity, control from standard RCP/ OCP and anti-flicker were important too, so that the image quality could be matched with other cameras, and it could cope with the varying light conditions we enjoy in the UK and the artificial light used in evening meetings.
Am I right in saying the cameras are operator free? Also can the footage be instantly replayed in HD or 4K?
Yes, the camera works with no need for an operator. It was important to RaceTech not to add extra personnel when adding more cameras. Once the HD Mini is set up, the camera is self reliant. Many automated features are used in this application. The camera records to on-board memory in a loop. After the video trigger is set up, the winning horse actually triggers its own sequence. The recording then automatically starts to replay, so the director can cut to the footage at the appropriate time, to show the race finish in glorious slow motion within seconds of the race finishing. For other applications and sports, these features can be less automated; not all sports are as predictable as horseracing. Although RaceTech’s cameras are HD, we currently produce 4K cameras and will soon be adding 8K to the family.
Instant slow motion replays have always been a challenge for high speed cameras, however IDT are widely known for clean images from surprisingly compact cameras. How did the firm overcome these challenges?
Traditionally, high speed cameras have a noisier image compared to ‘standard’ cameras. This is partly due to the global shutter, demanded by many scientific applications, and partly the quantity of cooling infrastructure required, as the high amount of internal processing produces a fair amount of heat. As IDT started with applications that needed very clean images, it has always been an R&D priority to produce the cleanest images possible. Our designers and engineers have specific expertise in cooling and calibration, (partly using the knowledge gained through PIV and airflow, which keeps our cooling components to a minimum) so we can continue to produce the best quality images even from the smallest of cameras.
Can you tell me if the company will be covering other sports in the future?
We are in dialogue with companies that cover other sports and are very optimistic about the future. With the size of cameras coming down even further, we’re able to offer cameras that could fit in a cricket stump, for instance. There is also a choice between recording short sequences, or longer periods of time. The new range of cameras now all have twin SDI outputs, so delivering a permanent live whilst broadcasting an action replay will ensure that no action is missed. We envisage the cameras enhancing future coverage of tennis, football, cricket and many Olympic events.
What does the future hold for IDT?
We will continue to listen to our customers, both broadcast and industrial, and exceed their expectations, never forgetting our roots. Many of the recent innovations introduced for the broadcast industry are useful to the car crash testing environment too; there’s a demand for 4K and tiny cameras for capturing images in very tight locations, like door cavities and under the bonnet. However, it’s the sports broadcasting industry which is most exciting for the near future.